Posts Tagged ‘CBC’


I’m on CBC’s Tapestry: Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 8, 2011

A long time and no posts.

I’ve had the pleasure of covering some interesting stories the last few months, but with other obligations and commitments, I haven’t been keeping up the blogging habit. Tsk.

I hope to return to my semi-regular posts here. And there’s no better occasion than to announce that an audio essay I began writing in the summer during an internship at CBC Tapestry will air on Sunday (2:05 ET; 4:05 MT; 3:05 PT). I recorded it in late summer, and it’s finally airing. Here’s the clip in its entirety. For those who want to hear the entire episode, it’s available as a podcast (about 40 minutes into the episode).

The essay is about being a Bible school graduate.

Back in 1998, I was a depressed 2nd year University of Calgary student with an intense dislike of my choice of study: biological sciences. Having grown up going to church and not really understanding the religious underpinnings of Christianity, I decided to launch myself headlong into the world of faith. In my young thinking, I thought if faith was going to be part of my life, it would be everything in my life.

I wanted to take God as seriously as God deserved. I decided to go (felt led to go) to Moody Bible Institute, an evangelical Bible school in downtown Chicago.

It was a choice I feel some ambivalence about at this point in my life. But it was fulfilling in many ways as well, and opened up an intellectual faith that I knew nothing about. Going to Bible school is not something I usually talk about, and with the prodding of Mary Hynes (who facetiously said, “But you’re so normal!”), I decided to explore the statement: I’m a Bible school graduate.


Summer reading at the Corporation

June 20, 2010

I can’t tell you how lucky I’ve been the last few weeks to be at the CBC radio. Working with the Tapestry crew, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on some great interviews, research some interesting topics, and contribute to upcoming production.

Here’s a few of the books I’ve been reading before, after, and in the course of “work”:

Lisa Miller – Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife

Newsweek’s religion editor weighs in with her consideration of all things heavenly in this accessible, informative overview. Heaven, it turns out, is a pretty resilient belief, with a whopping 81 per cent of American adherents (58 per cent of Canadians). It’s also more of a recent phenomenon than many people realize, dating back to the intertestamental period of the Maccabbean revolt against Hellenism (ca. 200 BCE). Miller’s book is an exploration of the history, imagery, and visions of heaven. But she also talks with a variety of scholars, clerics, and everyday Americans who offer their thoughtful considerations on the sweet hereafter.

Peter Manseau – Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead

The slightly irreverent Peter Manseau takes us on a series of occasionally surreal journeys – pilgrimages – to shrines of the holy around the world. Whether it’s Buddha’s teeth, Muhammad’s whisker, or Jesus’ foreskin, nothing is too sacred to avoid becoming a sacred object (and often, multiple objects). A fascinating exploration of how humanity attempts to physically connect with the sacred through mundane, even grotesque objects.

David Darling – Prayer for Compassion (CD)

Okay, it’s not reading per se (except for the liner notes), but one the more interesting moments at Tapestry came from the meeting of two musicians jamming long distance: Grammy Award-winning cellist David Darling (in CT) and Hildegard-chanting soprano Norma Gentile (in Toronto). The two musicians improvised and talked about the joys and spirituality of music. David’s latest CD is sweet, soulful, and occasionally haunting.

Honorable Mentions: Joan Chittister (Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope) and David Adams Richards (God Is)

Ever heard of Sister Joan? If you haven’t, you should check out her work. The Erie, PA based Benedictine nun is a prolific author (40+ books) and from an interview we had with her, an incredibly charismatic individual. Another book I’ve been reading is novelist David Adams Richards God Is. Wounded by the arrogance with which God is dismissed within his circle of intellectual elites, Richards opts to find God in the moments, experiences, and miraculous moments of life. This one wasn’t for work, but the suggestion of CBC Ideas producer, Frank Faulk.


Sports journalism and public relations: The increasingly fuzzy line

April 28, 2010

An interesting discussion is happening over at one of my favourite hockey blogs, Kent Wilson’s Five Hole Fanatics, and at David Staples’s blog at the Edmonton Journal. Freelance blogger and journalist-turned-blogger both ask a key question (implicitly or explicitly): does having access to the Oilers or Flames locker rooms actually result in valuable analysis?

The answer, according to Wilson, is a decided meh.

This discussion overlaps with a case study I finished last week for my media ethics class where I talked about the somewhat incestuous relationship between sports journalists and PR. Do sports journalists (or other journalists) maintain a healthy enough distance from their subjects?


Sports coverage is not exactly known for its hard-hitting investigative journalism.

Katie Stein (Flickr CC)

A sports reporter, more often than not, is a curmudgeonly homer with an affection for puns and classic rock references. Occasional criticism of a local team may involve a question or two about management or coaching decisions, but that’s a rarity. Part armchair coach, part booster, sports reporters pump stories full of quotes and do what they can to keep fans watching, listening, reading.

Teams, in turn, carefully cultivate this relationship to mutual benefit. It’s rare when a sports journalist breaks a story about troubled team dynamics, but equally rare when pundits step out of line and are denied access. When CBC’s Ron Maclean was critical of the on-ice theatrics of Vancouver Canuck Alexandre Burrows, the Canucks refused interviews with CBC the next week. Such incidents are few and far between.

Beyond the obvious symbiosis, the relationship between press and professional sports is often cozier than commonly known.

An editor at the Vancouver Courier did a double take last February while attending a Canucks game. Lisa Smedman noticed Shane Foxman, the CBC TV sports reporter for Vancouver, working the jumbotron crowd, pumping up ‘Nucks fans to yell their signature, “Luuuuuuuuu.” By day, Foxman covered the team for CBC, but was moonlighting with the club as an announcer and commercial break entertainer.

She was perplexed at the apparent conflict of interest. How could he be objective in his reporting on the Canucks while essentially working in their PR department?

Smedman – a prolific science fiction and fantasy writer who has only occasionally worked as a journalist – has a bit of an outsider vantage point on the big journalism outlets. As a result, she ran with the ethical conundrum in the pages of the Courier, repeatedly indicating her discomfort with Foxman’s dual role:

Does this mean CBC news anchor Ian Hanomansing could moonlight for the Board of Trade or VANOC? Or Ron Maclean for the Leafs? Foxman does a fine job on the CBC, but shouldn’t even the appearance of a conflict of interest be a concern?

She approached the local CBC for clarification and was rebuffed. The BC news director didn’t see a conflict in the situation. There’s a clear distinction between sports and news, she was told; Foxman’s part-time gig could be positive for CBC news ratings, since a more recognizable TV personality is a better draw for local viewers.

These kinds of curious relationships are not isolated to a single broadcaster or medium. A few months after the Courier article, the Olympics offered further examples of apparent conflicts of interest. CTV reporters took flack for running lengths of the torch relay, awkwardly stepping into the story they used to only cover.

A lesser known kerfuffle happened when Tyee reporter Andrew Macleod broke a story about Jeff Lee, Olympic reporter for the Vancouver Sun. Despite his full-time assignment of covering an international event with only a slim majority of local approval, Lee collected payment for a feature article written for the IOC’s magazine. The early 2009 editions of Olympic Report featured “Feeling the Buzz” a pillowy soft feature penned by Lee which chronicled ongoing preparations for the 2010 Olympics.

Jeff Lee speaking to the Pacific Pin Club in Vancouver

To underline the point that Lee’s piece was mere advertorial, Macleod quoted Lee’s piece and mentioned IOC chief Jacques Rogge’s foreword. Despite assuming a predominantly neutral tone in the rest of the piece, and allowing plenty of space for Lee to object and inject a final word, the result is the clear allegation of a conflict of interest (and a plea for disclosure of similar conflicts):

Wrote Lee, “In the six years since that moment in Prague, the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), with Furlong still at its helm, has continued to move mountains, if not literally then certainly figuratively.”

Corporate sponsors have brought “financial muscle” to the organization, venues have been built on time, buyers have snapped up tickets and the games include economic and cultural opportunities for indigenous people, he found.

“More importantly, Canada as a country adopted the message of the Olympic movement as a unifying force for humankind through sports.”

Doctors may be the worst patients, but journalists can clearly make for poor interviews. Lee didn’t help his case with his response. Obviously annoyed that his journalistic integrity was being called into question, Lee turned defensive and snarky. He scolded Macleod for a “bullshit” accusation of impropriety, called it a “cheap shot,” “mischief making,” and an “attack story” before the article had even been posted. In his own defense, he insisted his editors had been okay with the piece and that his relationship with VANOC was duly strained due to less than flattering coverage in the Sun. After the online article appeared, Lee popped up in the comment section, lambasting anonymous readers for not actually owning up to their criticism of his integrity.


These two stories had several common features. Both Foxman and Lee were called in question for using specialist knowledge to sell cheerleading services on a freelance basis. Both had the blessing of employers who didn’t believe the outside work affected their daily coverage.

The Courier and Tyee articles were also similar in construction and tone. Both were written by journalists at small media outlets criticizing senior journalists at major media organizations (with a history of trying to take on the big guys). Both invoked the opinions of “experts” who claimed there was a mild but preventable breech of trust. And both stories were framed in ways that portrayed a journalist in a conflict of interest.

But were either of these media types violating their journalistic allegiance to citizens? An interesting question with a less than obvious answer.

If you assume a covenant between journalist and the public, it seems a bit of a slam dunk. Given the choice to appear more or less ethical, it’s a no-brainer to err on the side of scruples. If the question is framed as whether or not to operate on both sides of the blurry line of press and PR? Again, slam dunk.

A mitigating factor in these stories, however, is the nature of the reporting. Because sports or entertainment reporting often involves semi-boosterism, there may be less of a public expectation of neutrality. The CBC sports reporter was singled out by Smedman partly because he works for the public broadcaster, which meant an additional set of expectations not typically demanded from other outlets. Foxman moonlights on the weekends as an announcer for the team, a local radio reporter performs the same task on weekdays. Smedman felt less of a breech of ethics for the radio persona.

But is there really much danger in sports reporters performing PR roles? Should the protection of integrity be the responsibility of the journalist or the media corporation informed about the freelance work? Smedman’s article raises these questions in another, analogous way. While it’s one thing for Foxman to plug the Canucks to paying customers, it might be different if Ian Hanomansing was working as a communications liaison for the Vancouver Board of Trade. But news anchors routinely appear as moderators or public speakers at corporate functions. When do these appearances become a violation of a public covenant? If I were to hazard a guess, I would argue that it depends on the job and the way in which the journalist presents themselves. In addition, politics seem a special case: journalists cross the line when they enter the political realm and side with a particular party. In any case, public figures run the risk of overexposure.

A second mitigating factor is the changing economic climate facing conventional journalism, means increased contract and freelance work. A sharp distinction between journalism and communications quickly disappears when you’re trying to make ends meet. In a freelance climate, journalists can see themselves not so much as truth-seeking servants of the public sphere, but as hired communicators serving the needs of corporate contract partners in exchange for a clearly delineated time and payment. The onus in freelance journalism shifts mostly to the media organization, which has to sell the integrity of its journalistic product. The public, meanwhile, increasingly must play a role in differentiating between types of information.

Regardless of whether Foxman and Lee are considered guilty of compromising their integrity, the too cozy relationship between press and sports may already be shaping the future of sports reporting. In the last five or so years, a proliferation of blogs have sprung up around most professional sports teams. Instead of relying on expensive access to athletes, legions of minimally-paid but passionate hockey bloggers rely on several advanced statistical methods of analysis which factor in possession, puck movement, chances, and quality of competition.

Communities of devoted fans form as lively discussion boards provide a high level of interaction with other passionate fans. Many assume that mainstream media (or “MSM,” that blogger’s cuss word) is too close to team machinations to provide sound feedback.


News Seeking: “Church is Out!” – The Spirituality of Hockey

January 27, 2009

CBC’s Ron Maclean signed off at the 2009 NHL All-Star game with an unusual comment: “Church is out!”

And while Maclean’s non sequitir followed comments about wearing uncomfortable clothes on a Sunday, he is not alone in casually comparing Canada’s cherished sport and traditional religion.

Photo by Borman818 (Flickr's Creative Commons Attribution License)

Photo by Borman818 (Flickr's Creative Commons Attribution License)

During the All-Star weekend, Vincent Lecavelier responded to trade rumours that would transport him to the sacred ground of Montreal’s Bell Centre. “It’s basically like a religion here. Everybody loves the Canadiens,” said the Lightening captain.

CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos went even further in the Globe and Mail: “hockey is my religion, the Canadiens are my god, so this then was my cathedral.”

As strange as such comments may be, they reflect a Canadian fascination with comparing hockey and religion, particularly for fans of Les Habitants. Over the past year, numerous papers have reported on the religiosity of Canadiens fans, including a recent feature in the New York Times, as well as Canadian Press and Globe and Mail reports about a University of Montreal course (and book) on hockey and divinity.

But media reports about the religiosity of hockey extend well beyond La Belle Province. Doug Todd, The Vancouver Sun spirituality and ethics writer, recently breached the subject in his post, “Are Trevor Linden and Mats Sundin Bigger Than Jesus?” After looking at the fawning coverage of two Canuck heroes last year, Todd answered in the affirmative: “In popular secular Canadian culture, these hockey celebrities draw much more devotion, more psychic energy, than Jesus Christ.”

While all these examples are recent, there are hosts of “puckish” reflections from revered journalists on the deeper meanings of the game. Longtime Morningside host Peter Gzowski used to wax eloquent about the game, while prolific columnist Roy McGregor continues to do so.

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik (Flickr's Creative Commons Attribution License)

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik (Flickr's Creative Commons Attribution License)

But what do these kinds of stories really mean? Are they really news?

I think the answers are “not much” and “not really.”

Except that many people, like me, really, really, REALLY like hockey.

Many Canadians follow hockey on a daily basis, scrutinizing box scores or standings like scriptures or prayer books. Many Canadians get caught up in the euphoria of the game, much like the feelings associated with worship. And when people participate together in sports, they experience a church-like connection with other people.

Oh yeah, and puck-heads are asked to give until it hurts. For many, hockey is synonymous with financial sacrifice, a show of true devotion and faith in difficult economic times.

But that’s hardly the same thing as ascribing ultimate meaning to the game.

Perhaps the reflexive Canadian comparison of hockey and religion is a vestige of a disappearing formal religiosity. As institutional religion continues to give way to a broader, more fractured, individualized spirituality, people naturally ascribe religious characteristics to other parts of life.

Maybe there’s a little bit of residual guilt: sports fandom is hard to explain or justify (particularly for Leafs and Canucks fans). I’m speaking from personal experience. Invoking religious passion and good old patriotism at least makes it seem a little less ridiculous.

Photo by Starbuck (Flickr's Creative Commons Attribution License)

Photo by Starbuck (Flickr's Creative Commons Attribution License)

Then again, the sports and religion angle might simply be an easily filed story for a type of journalism known for stretching puns and metaphors beyond the point of disintegration. It would go a long way in explaining why the Canadian devotion to the hockey gods is by no means exclusive. While hockey (in the broader sense) is also a religion for Latvians and Tamils, American sportswriters frequently muse about the religious dimensions of baseball, football, and basketball.

Church is out.


Article Gets Mention on PBS’s Mediashift Site

December 1, 2008

First it was CBC, now it’s PBS!

Alfred Hermida mentions my recent Thunderbird article in his article, “J-Students Take Multiplatform Approach to City Politics.” Hermida’s article is featured on PBS’s Mediashift website, which examines the move to digital media.

Alfred Hermida is my professor in what we at “J-School” call “iJournalism,” which is shorthand for integrated or multiplatform journalism (we’re very fond of abbreviations). Hermida is UBC J-School’s expert on all things technological, and runs a celebrated blog on media and technology,

Okay, it’s not the best reference. I’m in there as a sort-of throwback to the resilience of “plain old text.”

But I’m not going to shun fame when it finds me.


Hate and Human Rights – Part II – Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn

November 23, 2008

Conservate Pundits Battle Human Rights Commissions: This is the second of a three part series on the Canadian Human Rights Commission and “hate” speech cases. In my first post, I talked about Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the so-called “hate speech” provision.

READ MORE IN THE NEWS: An interview with Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress and complainant against Maclean’s magazine, was featured yesterday (Nov 22) in the National Post. Also, Liberal MP Keith Martin has re-introduced legislation to repeal Section 13. Finally, the biggest splash of the week will undoubtedly happen on Monday, Nov 24. Prof. Richard Moon, an independent lawyer from the University of Windsor, is releasing a report on the workings of the CHRC. Part III, which I will release on Monday, will include discussion of this development.

As far as plots go, the story almost writes itself.

A journalist publishes a controversial editorial. He ruffles some feathers. A policing agency steps in to censor the opinion. And the journalist must fight a valiant battle for the right to speak.

It could be told anywhere: in a fascist or communist dictatorship, in the battle for civil rights, or in some banana republic.

But it happened in Canada. Twice in the past year. One involved Mark Steyn of Maclean’s, while the other featured Ezra Levant of the Western Standard.

Even the particulars are remarkably similar: a bellicose pundit publishing an unflattering depiction of Islam goes before a provincial human rights body. And both Steyn and Levant have relished their roles as journalists cum martyrs, goading their opponents and openly daring commissions to rule against them.

Ezra Levant: Who’s Paying For All This?

Ezra Levant is one pugnacious fella.

One look at Levant’s blog will prove that. While chock full of defamatory statements and harsh rhetoric, Levant’s online editorials are regularly cited for their role in the fight for free speech against the Human Rights Commissions.

Levant’s following may be mostly among Canadian neo-cons and libertarians, but his story has garnered sympathy from mainstream media as well. In one of Rick Mercer’s trademark rants, for instance, the comedian called Western Standard “a completely nutty magazine,” described Levant as “one of the most aggravating men on this earth,” but defended him as “god forbid, a freedom fighter.”


This image of the cartoons is deliberately unclear, and is used solely as illustrative material for this posting.

In February of 2006, Levant published a set of cartoon depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Originally published September 30, 2005 in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the editorial cartoons deliberately exacerbated tensions with the countries’ Muslim minority. The depictions, soon reprinted throughout the world, spawned a violent backlash in several Islamic countries. Levant published the cartoons in the midst of these violent outbursts, and after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had asked the media to stop reprinting the incendiary pieces.

Levant’s act of republishing the cartoons seems as much a publicity stunt as anything else. As one pundit noted, the decision of papers worldwide to reprint the Danish cartoons is bizarre in many ways, not least of which is that “it seems doubtful that the reprints are speaking to the right audience.”  In the face of worldwide violence, the mainstream Canadian press declined to reprint the cartoons.

But Levant likes a good fight. So he went ahead and published them. Shortly after, a Calgary imam complained to Calgary Police and launched a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, the Alberta legislative version of the CHRC. Nearly two years later, Levant was called to the commission to respond to the complaint in January 2008. Levant recorded the proceedings and posted them on The complaint was ultimately dismissed in August.

A major reason Levant has garnered so much sympathy is the financial ramifications of his battle. Levant maintains that the investigation cost him over one hundred thousand dollars, compared to human rights complaints, which are free for the complainant and paid for by taxpayers.  The disparity between costs has subsequently been seized on as one of the fatal flaws of human rights commissions.

Compared to the relatively deep pockets and high circulation of Maclean’s, Levant’s fledgling Western Standard filled a small libertarian niche created by the demise of Western Report (in its various incarnations). During the course of the investigation, the magazine ceased printing due to its unprofitability and Levant sold the online version.

Maclean’s: Whose Rights Are More Important?

Although typically understood as a free speech story, the “hate” speech case against Maclean’s was painted by the BC Human Rights Tribunal as a matter of balancing competing human rights.

The human rights complaint launched against Maclean’s involved 18 articles of an allegedly “Islamophobic” nature published between January 2005 and July 2007. Shortly after the publication of these articles, a group of York University Muslim law students met with Maclean’s editorial staff to try to convince the magazine to publish an article with a viewpoint opposing Steyn. The students were refused.

The Canadian Islamic Congress’ human rights complaints focused attention on the writing of Mark Steyn, a conservative Canadian-born pundit living in the U.S. Steyn’s article, “The Future Belongs to Islam,” was excerpted from his 2006 book, America Alone. Steyn’s detractors argued that he depicted Islam as a militant global ideology  “hot for jihad” and intent on triumph in the demographically-challenged democratic western world.picture-12

Separate complaints were filed against Maclean’s: one with the CHRC, another with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and a third with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. Ontario argued it didn’t have the jurisdiction to deal with the complaint, the CHRC dismissed the complaint in July without going to the CHRT. Only the BC Human Rights Tribunal heard the case, but dismissed it on October 10, 2008.

The case against Maclean’s magazine involves a complication of the popular storyline. Rather than simply addressing free speech, the question the Tribunal addressed was how competing rights should be balanced. As the judgment at the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal noted, “two important and potentially competing rights” are at stake:  freedom of speech and freedom from discrimination on religious grounds.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal determined that the complainants had “not met their burden of demonstrating that the Article rises to the level of detestation, calumny and vilification necessary to breach” the hate provisions of the B.C. Code.

While the Tribunal ruled in favour of Maclean’s, its assessment of the evidence was hardly favourable. The BC tribunal described Steyn’s article as expressing “strong, polemical, and, at times, glib opinions about Muslims.”  Moreover, Maclean’s was criticized for appearing to direct its conduct “to the media coverage of the hearing rather than supporting the positions it had taken in its original response to the complaint.”


Mansbridge Urges Journalists to Improve Political Coverage

November 7, 2008

CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge says journalists are responsible for low voter turnout and political apathy in Canadian politics. Mansbridge said this while delivering the keynote speech on Thursday night at the 2008 Jack Webster Awards, the annual celebration of the best in B.C. media.

While Mansbridge argued that the media is not the sole cause of political malaise (turnout for the Canadian election was 59% on Oct 14), he urged journalists to rethink how they cover political figures. Having met thousands of politicians in his forty year career, Mansbridge claims the majority are good folks who sacrifice a great deal to make a positive difference for the public. Yet politicians can’t shake the image of being little more than “used car salesmen.”

To illustrate his point, he noted a question he himself had asked the party leaders before Canada’s most recent election: as prime minister, will you run a deficit?

Fearing bad press (and not being damned fools), none of the leaders said yes. But in our current economic climate, it’s an obvious ‘yes’ for all parties. After the election, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives admitted deficit spending is likely the course for the next couple of years.

Similarly, in Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on Tuesday night, Obama said many promises would wait past the first year or the first term to be implemented. In a brilliant campaign, Obama would not have been so foolish as to say so a day before.

In the aftermath of the evening, my j-school classmates and I went to a downtown pub to imbibe a little and dissect the evening. The majority thought Mansbridge’s rebuke was on target, but some wanted to add a few caveats to the words of the Canadian icon.

One classmate described Mansbridge as “out of touch” with political reality. For her, apathy is about an ineffective electoral system as much as anything else. In the first-past-the-post system, it makes little sense to vote when your choice has no chance. All the talk of strategic voting and vote-swapping illustrates this basic frustration throughout the country. I basically agree. The current system is adversarial and not representative, but the jury is out on whether another system would bring more voters to the polls.

Other classmates saw Mansbridge’s challenge as pushing journalists to target corporate interests more than politicians. The mainstream media plays soft with the corporate powers that be, she said. Probably true. You don’t have to be a big believer in collusion behind closed doors to make this point. As corporate communications machines grow ever more sophisticated, underresourced media outlets often cover the news in a passive way, mostly because it’s easier and cheaper. In our classes, mainstream journalists say close to half of the news is of this kind. As a public employee (of CBC), Mansbridge could have driven this point home, but I’m not sure he did – at least directly.

For my part, I’m still unsure about it all. Journalists are part of a giant political, social and economic mainstream that thrives on adversary. If journalists don’t jump on a gaffe, the competition most certainly will. If not, other politicians will – just watch question period sometime. Below the 49th parallel, polarized political analysis is an art form. Just tune into CNN or Fox News and see how partisan spin is replacing in-depth analysis.

Would more thoughtful political coverage increase voter turnout? Perhaps.

In the US, the high voter turnout for this week’s presidential election may be a blip in an otherwise downward western trend. The record turnout in the U.S. may be due to desperation as much as it is to Obama’s magnetism. After an incredibly unpopular presidency, a war that’s clearly going nowhere, and an economic thumping surpassing anything in recent memory, Obama tapped into a national restlessness. Maybe we’re just not desperate enough to vote in Canada.

But maybe low voter turnout is a sign of other things. While apathy and ignorance are never excusable, maybe it’s not altogether healthy to view politics as the be-all and end-all.

As one political scientist once told me, most people simply keep one or two issues top of mind. They’re just too busy living their lives and worrying about other things to do anything else. And as she told me, you can’t really blame them.